Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Is an amnesty the right answer for illegal immigrants?

The Liberal Democrats have decided on an interesting solution to the problem of illegal immigration - offering them an amnesty if they manage to stay here for ten years or more.

On one level this is a decent gesture that would solve some of the distressing cases highlighted fairly regularly in the press where a settled family are torn apart after x years living peacefully in some village somewhere when aunt Mavis turns out to be an illegal immigrant.

So I agree that greater flexibility is neccessary to deal with difficult residential applications from long-term illegal settlers - perhaps by giving family courts a decision making role; but a blanket amnesty is not the answer at all.

The experience of other countries that have tried this technique like Spain is that the level of illegal immigration attempts goes up sharply. Those intent on resettling decide that their already good chance of getting in, added to the certainty of being given citizenship if they can hang on ten years makes the destination irresistible.

Britain is already to an embarrassing degree the first choice for thousands of migrants who cross several other EU countries to get here. In my view this proposal, although made for the most humane and decent reasons, would make the problem far worse in the short term - lead to an immediate immigration crisis, and potentially invite thousands more illegal immigrants than we get already.

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